This is The Living Word Bible Study for Sunday, September 3, 2023. It is based on the Bible readings recommended for this Sunday in the interdenominational scheme (Revised Common Lectionary).
Here are this week’s readings:
Exodus 3:1–15 — A flaming bush attracts Moses to meet with God
Matthew 16:21–28 — Jesus explains that His call is to suffer and die
Romans 12:9–21 — The call is to show God’s life by sacrificial love
All together (NIV) on this page
Theme: There is personal sacrifice in following God’s call
Psalm 105:1-6, 23-26, 45
1-2 Give praise to the Lord, proclaim His name; make known among the nations what He has done. Sing to Him, sing praise to Him; tell of all His wonderful acts.
3-4 Glory in His holy name; let the hearts of those who seek the Lord rejoice. Look to the Lord and His strength; seek His face always.
5-6 Remember the wonders He has done, His miracles, and the judgments He pronounced, you His servants, the descendants of Abraham, His chosen ones, the children of Jacob.
23 Then Israel entered Egypt; Jacob resided as a foreigner in the land of Ham.
24-25 The Lord made His people very fruitful; He made them too numerous for their foes, whose hearts He turned to hate His people, to conspire against His servants.
26&45 He sent Moses His servant, and Aaron, whom He had chosen, that they might keep His precepts and observe His laws. Praise the Lord.
Exodus 3:1-15 — A flaming bush attracts Moses to meet with God
• He discovers the name of God and a call to bring the Israelites out of Egypt
1 Now Moses was tending the flock of Jethro his father-in-law, the priest of Midian, and he led the flock to the far side of the wilderness and came to Horeb, the mountain of God.
“Horeb” — generally used of the region around Sinai the mountain.
“Mountain of God” — where God manifested His presence, first to Moses and later to Israel, Exodus 19-40.
2-3 There the angel of the Lord appeared to him in flames of fire from within a bush. Moses saw that though the bush was on fire it did not burn up. So Moses thought, “I will go over and see this strange sight — why the bush does not burn up.”
“Angel of the Lord” — also “the Lord” and “God” in verse 4.
“Flames of fire” — representing God’s transcendent holiness.
4 When the Lord saw that he had gone over to look, God called to him from within the bush, “Moses! Moses!” And Moses said, “Here I am.”
5 “Do not come any closer,” God said. “Take off your sandals, for the place where you are standing is holy ground.”
“Holy ground” — because of God’s presence. Holy means ‘other’, separated from the commonplace; from now on the central description of God.
6 Then He said, “I am the God of your father, the God of Abraham, the God of Isaac and the God of Jacob.” At this, Moses hid his face, because he was afraid to look at God.
“The God of Abraham… Isaac and… Jacob” — reminding Moses that he belongs to the people God has pledged Himself to by covenant.
• Further study: quoted by Jesus, Matt. 22:31-22.
7-8 The Lord said, “I have indeed seen the misery of My people in Egypt. I have heard them crying out because of their slave drivers, and I am concerned about their suffering. So I have come down to rescue them from the hand of the Egyptians and to bring them up out of that land into a good and spacious land, a land flowing with milk and honey—the home of the Canaanites, Hittites, Amorites, Perizzites, Hivites and Jebusites.
“Flowing with milk and honey” — pasture for sheep and cattle, with sweet grapes and dates.
9 “And now the cry of the Israelites has reached Me, and I have seen the way the Egyptians are oppressing them.
10 “So now, go. I am sending you to Pharaoh to bring My people the Israelites out of Egypt.”
“So now, go. I am sending you” — God’s saving strategy involves human partnership.
11 But Moses said to God, “Who am I that I should go to Pharaoh and bring the Israelites out of Egypt?”
12 And God said, “I will be with you. And this will be the sign to you that it is I who have sent you: When you have brought the people out of Egypt, you will worship God on this mountain.”
“This will be the sign” — signs follow faith as confirmation.
13 Moses said to God, “Suppose I go to the Israelites and say to them, ‘The God of your fathers has sent me to you,’ and they ask me, ‘What is His name?’ Then what shall I tell them?”
14 God said to Moses, “I AM who I am. This is what you are to say to the Israelites: ‘I AM has sent me to you.’”
15 God also said to Moses, “Say to the Israelites, ‘The Lord, the God of your fathers — the God of Abraham, the God of Isaac and the God of Jacob — has sent me to you.’ This is My name forever, the name you shall call Me from generation to generation.”
“The Lord” — lit. “Yahweh”, “He who is”, a version of “I AM” (v.14 above) which could be translated “I WILL BE WHAT I WILL BE”, in other words self-sufficient and self-existent.
SUMMARY Moses, who has grown up knowing OF God, now has an encounter WITH God, who calls him to a seemingly impossible task.
APPLICATION God does extraordinary things, usually with a human partner He can rely on. He looks to us to be ready to work with Him, beyond our own capability.
DISCUSSION STARTER When is it right to question God, as we see Moses doing here?
Matthew 16:21-28 — Jesus explains that His call is to suffer and die
• Disciples learn to let go of the world’s acclaim to gain God’s
21 From that time on Jesus began to explain to His disciples that He must go to Jerusalem and suffer many things at the hands of the elders, the chief priests and the teachers of the law, and that He must be killed and on the third day be raised to life.
“From that time on” — following Peter’s declaration that Jesus is the Messiah, Matt. 16:16, Jesus begins to reveal the suffering path of the Messiah.
• Further study, the three predictions of His death with Matt. 17:22-23, 20:18-19.
22 Peter took Him aside and began to rebuke Him. “Never, Lord!” he said. “This shall never happen to You!”
“This shall never happen” — like most Jews, Peter saw Messiah as triumphant and conquering.
• The Messiah that must suffer: Psalm 22; Isaiah 53; Zech. 12:10; 13:7.
23 Jesus turned and said to Peter, “Get behind Me, Satan! You are a stumbling block to Me; you do not have in mind the concerns of God, but merely human concerns.”
“Get behind Me, Satan” — because the devil had offered the same temptation to avoid suffering and death, Matthew 4:10.
24 Then Jesus said to His disciples, “Whoever wants to be My disciple must deny themselves and take up their cross and follow Me.
“Deny themselves… take up their cross” — not falsely adopting an impoverished life, but renouncing self-centred aspirations, in order to put the kingdom of God first, Matthew 6:33.
25 For whoever wants to save their life will lose it, but whoever loses their life for Me will find it.
“Save life… lose it… loses their life… find it” — kingdom life is found by letting go of ambition.
26-27 What good will it be for someone to gain the whole world, yet forfeit their soul? Or what can anyone give in exchange for their soul? For the Son of Man is going to come in His Father’s glory with His angels, and then He will reward each person according to what they have done.
“Gain the whole world” — with Jesus, kingdom life becomes eternal life, rather than spiritual death and eternal separation from God.
28 “Truly I tell you, some who are standing here will not taste death before they see the Son of Man coming in His kingdom.”
“Some who are standing here” — Peter, James and John would shortly see the Son of Man “in His kingdom” or alt. “transfigured in royal splendour”.
SUMMARY Partnering with God is sharing His purposes at the expense of our own — as Peter the Rock learnt the hard way as the “stumbling block”.
APPLICATION To be free is to say ‘no’ to our own aspirations and successes, and to say ‘yes’ to Jesus and what He is doing.
DISCUSSION STARTER What is the difference between acknowledging Jesus as Saviour, and receiving Him as Lord?
Romans 12:9-21 — The call is to show God’s life by sacrificial love
• Christians are enabled to prefer and honour others above themselves
9 Love must be sincere. Hate what is evil; cling to what is good.
“Love must be sincere” — the church is built on relationships, which must be real (lit., without hypocrisy). This means love within the church fellowship and also love for those outside, including oppressors (vv.14, 17-21 below).
10 Be devoted to one another in love. Honour one another above yourselves.
“Honour… above yourselves” — as Jesus was seen to do, Phil. 2:3-7. Romans competed for honour; only a mind renewed by the Holy Spirit (v.2) could embrace such an idea.
11 Never be lacking in zeal, but keep your spiritual fervour, serving the Lord.
“Keep your spiritual fervour” — alt. transl. “be set on fire by the Spirit”, passionate about faith in Jesus and keen to exercise His ministry to others.
12-13 Be joyful in hope, patient in affliction, faithful in prayer. Share with the Lord’s people who are in need. Practice hospitality.
“Hope… affliction” — affliction is inevitable, John 16:33; 2 Tim. 3:12, but Christians are given inner joy to face it confidently.
14 Bless those who persecute you; bless and do not curse.
“Bless those who persecute” — reflecting the teaching of Jesus, Matthew 5:44; Luke 6:27-28.
15 Rejoice with those who rejoice; mourn with those who mourn.
“Rejoice… mourn” — as members of a body, sharing each other’s joy and pain, 1 Cor. 12:25-26.
16 Live in harmony with one another. Do not be proud, but be willing to associate with people of low position. Do not be conceited.
“Live in harmony” — as a fellowship holding kingdom values, not status-conscious Roman ones.
17 Do not repay anyone evil for evil. Be careful to do what is right in the eyes of everyone.
18 If it is possible, as far as it depends on you, live at peace with everyone.
“If it is possible… live at peace” — Christians cannot and should not aim to please everyone, but should love people within the fellowship and beyond, making “the teaching about God our Saviour attractive”, Titus 2:10.
19 Do not take revenge, my dear friends, but leave room for God’s wrath, for it is written: “It is Mine to avenge; I will repay,” says the Lord.
“It is Mine to avenge” — reflecting OT and Jesus’ teaching, Deut. 32:35, Matt. 5:39. The desire for revenge can be offset by knowing that God is a sure judge, both now and in eternity.
20-21 On the contrary: “If your enemy is hungry, feed him; if he is thirsty, give him something to drink. In doing this, you will heap burning coals on his head.” Do not be overcome by evil, but overcome evil with good.
“Heap burning coals” — grace flowing in an act of kindness can bring a hostile person to repentance and restore fellowship. The Proverbs 25:22 picture is like burning pangs of remorse.
SUMMARY The Christian call to give others preference and to bless those who are doing the opposite to us is emotionally costly. Doing what is right brings long-term rewards, but not necessarily short-term ones.
APPLICATION There will be opposition and difficulty in the Christian life, and this is hardest to understand when it comes from inside the church or fellowship. This is a test of whether we put God’s values ahead of our feelings.
DISCUSSION STARTER How is it that Paul can expect readers to follow teaching, which appears to be so difficult?
PRAYER Thank You, Father, for first loving me.
I hear Your call to live for You by loving others, regardless of whether they return it.
Following Jesus can be difficult and the cost can seem too great.
But what is that, compared with Your Son paying for my freedom with His life?
Fill me with Your Spirit and Your unconditional love, as I pray this in and through Jesus. Amen.